12/07/2005 12:00AM

Wilko ready to return in Larkspur

Email
Horsephotos
Wilko, who has not raced since having ankle surgery in May, will use Saturday's Larkspur at Golden Gate as a prep for the Dec. 26 Malibu.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Wilko, the winner of the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, will be supplemented to Saturday's $50,000 Larkspur Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

Trainer Craig Dollase said the Larkspur, a six-furlong race, will serve as a prep race to the $250,000 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

Unraced since finishing 12th in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in May, Wilko has been working steadily since late October, including a three-furlong breeze in 37 seconds Wednesday at Hollywood Park.

Even though the time of the workout may seem slow by Southern California standards, it equaled the fifth-fastest of 16 works at the distance over a course that many trainers said was deep.

"I think this race can be a little confidence-builder," Dollase said of the Larkspur. "We think this is a matter of getting a race under his belt."

Corey Nakatani will have the mount.

Owned by Paul Reddam and Susan Roy, Wilko has won 3 of 16 starts and $1,039,074. The BC Juvenile is Wilko's only win in six starts in the U.S. He was third in the Hollywood Futurity and Santa Anita Derby and sixth in the Kentucky Derby. Wilko underwent ankle surgery in May.

Dollase said he is not greatly concerned about the 16-day turnaround between the Larkspur and the Malibu. He noted that Wilko ran three times in 16 days when he was a 2-year-old racing in England, a span that included a win and two second-place finishes.

Race purses get $1,000 to $3,000 raise

The 5 percent purse increase for overnight races announced by Hollywood Park on Tuesday will result in an increase of $1,000 to $3,000 per race, depending on race conditions, according to a purse schedule released Wednesday.

Maiden special weight races for sprinters have been increased by $2,000, to $42,000; the purse of a $20,000 claiming race around two turns has been raised $1,000, to $26,000; and a first-condition allowance race for sprinters has been increased $2,000, to $42,000.

The increase covers the final two weeks of the meeting, which ends Dec. 19.

The hike comes despite significant declines in attendance and handle. Through Sunday, average ontrack handle was down 8.9 percent and all-sources handle was down 10.5 percent from the 2004 fall meeting.

The current meeting is markedly different than 2004 in that there is no turf racing after the course failed to take root when resodded last year, and there is no racing on Wednesdays for the final four weeks of the meeting.

The absence of turf racing has had a negative impact on handle, since those races tend to draw better horses. The six-race Autumn Turf Festival, the highlight of past meetings, was not run on Thanksgiving weekend.

Conversely, the absence of Wednesday racing has allowed Hollywood Park to build purse revenue through full-card simulcasting. This week on Wednesday, the track took bets from seven racetracks.

Before the meeting began, the track redirected some money from turf stakes into overnight purses for dirt races, raising the level of overnight races by 15 percent.

Racing secretary Martin Panza said the absence of Wednesday racing has made Thursday handle stronger, giving purse revenue a boost. Normally, Wednesdays and Thursdays would be a drain on purse revenue, money that would be recovered by better business on weekends, he said.

"You go into the weekend not down very much, and we make significant money on the weekend for purses," Panza said.

The increase was made retroactive to the start of the meeting on Nov. 9, resulting in a distribution of approximately $220,000 to owners whose horses earned prize money in overnight races.

Good work sends Direct Connect to futurity

Direct Connect, the winner of two sprint stakes this year, may be supplemented to the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 17, trainer Paul Aguirre said.

A backup plan is the $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes for statebreds at seven furlongs at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

Aguirre said the final decision on which race will be targeted hinges on a workout this week. The supplemental fee for the Hollywood Futurity is $20,000.

After winning the Barretts Juvenile at Fairplex Park in September and the Cavonnier Stakes at Oak Tree at Santa Anita, Direct Connect finished second in the California Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 6 but was disqualified and placed ninth for causing interference in the stretch.

"We've been working him in blinkers, and the blinkers seem to have straightened him up," Aguirre said. "We'll have one more work, and we'll see how that works out."

The 1 1/16-mile Futurity is likely to have a strong field.

Bob and John, who finished first in the Real Quiet Stakes but was demoted to third in a controversial disqualification, leads a field of expected starters that includes A.P. Warrior, Bashert, Brother Derek, and Your Tent or Mine.

On Wednesday, Your Tent or Mine worked seven furlongs in 1:30.60. Trained by Neil Drysdale for Anthony Speelman, Your Tent or Mine won the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes at seven furlongs on Nov. 19.

Desormeaux will return for final two days

Jockey Kent Desormeaux will ride the final two days of this meeting, Dec. 18 and 19, after spending recent weeks riding in Japan, according to agent Tommy Ball.

Desormeaux finished third aboard Zenno Rob Roy in the Japan Cup on Nov. 27.

Desormeaux rode in Japan during the spring for approximately two months, a trip he has made in recent years.

In the Hollywood Starlet Stakes on Dec. 18, Desormeaux has been booked to ride Private World, who won the Moccasin Stakes on Nov. 20.

Memogram's value up thanks to Bordonaro

The claim of Memogram for $8,000 last Friday by owner David Bloom has turned out to be a bargain.

A 5-year-old mare, Memogram had her value rise considerably on Saturday when her 4-year-old full brother Bordonaro won the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes for sprinters at Hollywood Park.

According to trainer Gary Mandella, who submitted the claim, Bloom was looking for a broodmare for his stallion Taste of Paradise, who was recently retired to stud in Kentucky.

"He picked out a pretty shrewd claim," Mandella said.